District’s remote start hits close to home for some

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The fully remote learning plan that the Rome school district will use in launching a new school year is drawing a range of reactions including support from the teachers union and others, but opposition and questions from some parents.

Among widely varying comments:

• Safety amid the COVID-19 situation was emphasized by Rome Teachers Association President Robert Wood, when asked about district Superintendent Peter C. Blake’s announcement Wednesday of remote learning for at least the first six weeks of the school year.

“The union’s standpoint, from Rome to NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) to the American Federation of Teachers, has placed safety as its top priority,” said Wood. “My voice in supporting this decision was one of science and conscience. The structure provided to all districts included last-minute additional demands from the state, and a lack of definitive guidelines for swiftly, effectively, and adequately handling school-related-COVID cases.”

Wood pointed out “any power which I held on this reopening decision was coupled with great responsibility. My guide continues to be the health and safety of our children, the RCSD (Rome City School District) workforce, and all Rome families.”

In addition, Wood noted “the development of a reopening plan began with limited time and insufficient federal funding” and “as such, the quality of any programming was destined to be marginal, at best.” As the school district team worked to assemble “the best plan possible, with the cards with which we were dealt,” he observed, “we began to gain light of reality as school districts met major challenges and failures while reopening in southern and midwestern portions of the U.S.”

Blake has “outlined numerous valid reasons substantiating the best decision for the sake of our children,” Wood observed.

• Emily DiBari, a Ridge Mills Elementary School parent, remarked that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “says we can safely reopen schools. They had since March to prepare. It is key to our children’s future.”

DiBari commented “not all families have the resources to provide the supplemental support students need for e-learning to be successful.” She said Blake’s decision to “push reopening to the start of the flu season lacks strategic vision,” adding “what will Mr. Blake be doing in this time period to reopen that he did not do in the last five months of this pandemic?”

Blake’s announcement said that after using remote learning for the six weeks of the school year, the district would continue with it or begin to “reintroduce students back into our facilities.” The district in early October will review the situation regionally, statewide and nationally and “decide how learning will look in late October/early November,” he said.

DiBari said “my sense from other parents is that they are very upset and disappointed” by the school district’s decision.

“Most thought we would be doing, at a minimum, a hybrid plan” combining in-person and remote instruction, DiBari added. “They look at neighboring districts that are able to figure this out and wonder why we can’t. Some parents are looking into alternatives beyond the Rome school district. I think this poor planning will impact our community for years to come.”

• The school district’s Facebook page posted several persons’ comments with diverse opinions on the district’s decision. Among some of them:

— “You had our support when it was the state calling the shots. Now that you can open, you won’t because it’s too much of a challenge?....”

— “As a parent in a neighboring school district I think you made the correct decision, too many variables to control. I’ve never been too keen on using children as the canary in the coal mine.”

— “This school district is a joke....Remote learning does not teach our elementary kids anything, they need in-person with teachers learning....My children’s education is being hampered by this....”

— “Good choice. My daughter...is in the special needs classes and her summer school program was an improvement on the school year. Yes I would like all my kids in school but above all I want them safe....”

— “I believe it should be the parent’s choice as to send their child to school, as most parents are not equipped for any of this. A household today is diverse in many ways, some are single parent some are dual parents...people are struggling to maintain work. They can’t miss work to stay home with their kid....”

— “It’s a tough decision for any administration but it’s the best decision in regards to the safety of students and staff.”

— “My child is not learning anything from this remote learning....So disappointed!”

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